by Kellie Abrahamson
Shawn Fisher has been on the local scene since he was 15 years old, first as a solo artist playing covers in restaurants and bars, now as the front man and namesake to Shawn Fisher & the Jukebox Gypsies, a band that made headlines last summer after opening for Foreigner and Bryan Adams at the Jacksonville Arena. In the ten months since, Fisher and the JG’s have seen a great deal of success on the First Coast and beyond, from thrilling fans on the road to being honored by BMI to being the only local act invited to perform at this month’s Ancient City Crawfish Boil. Shawn was kind enough to speak with EU about the band, their recent successes and what’s to come.
EU: How long have you been making music?
Shawn Fisher: I’ve been making music since I was about 15 years old, so it’s going on about 5 years now.
EU: You started out playing around town as a solo artist, right?
SF: Yep, I played a lot of restaurants and small little bars and stuff playing covers and covers and covers.
EU: When did you start writing your own songs?
SF: I started writing when I was like 16 years old. I kind of snuck in an original song here and there onto my sets to see how they’d go over.
EU: And now you’ve got a whole band.
SF: Yes, and it rocks, I have to say.
EU: Tell me about how the Jukebox Gypsies came to be.
SF: My manager Eddie O’Neil used to manage about four or five other bands other than myself and all those bands, they all broke up. So Eddie kind of handpicked each of the best members of those four or five other bands to be in my band. That’s how that kind of came about.
EU: How has performing with the JG’s changed your music?
SF: It’s definitely changed the way that I write. I used to write a lot of stuff that, when I’d play it by myself it would sound normal. With a full band there are so many other instruments you have to think about. You have to think about whether or not the drums can play along with this, or the guitar. So I’ve kind of adapted more of a rock music writing style than a folk rock writing style.
EU: Over the last few months you guys have been doing some traveling. Do you like life on the road?
SF: Oh, I love life on the road! It is fantastic! I mean what better job can you have? Just traveling to different places and doing what you love to do, which in our case is just playing music and trying to rock people’s faces off every night. [Laughs]
EU: You were honored recently in New York. Tell us about that.
SF: I was brought to New York City by BMI, which is a songwriter’s organization that represents hundreds and hundreds of thousands of songwriters… They named me as one of the top nine songwriters to watch out for in the next year, in 2009. It’s a really big honor. So they flew me up there, it was kind of like a cocktail party… One of the guys who [were] nominated was actually the writer of Rihanna’s hit ‘Disturbia,’ just to give you a reference point of who else was there.
EU: And then you played in Austin.
SF: Yeah, we played in Austin for South by Southwest at the end of March or April, everything’s a blur. But yeah, we played South by Southwest and it was a blast. Austin is CRAZY at that time. I’ve never seen anything like it. There’s tons and tons and tons of bands and beer, it’s just crazy.
EU: Any plans for a full-scale tour any time soon?
SF: We’re really trying to get a summer tour going, like a really, full-out 30-day tour. It’s kind of in the planning stages right now, nothing official yet.
EU: Your out of town fans will love that.
SF: Yeah I know. Everyone’s been bugging me on MySpace asking “When are you coming here? When are you coming here?” I’m like, “I’m trying! I’m trying!” [Laughs]
EU: Last year you got to open for Foreigner and Bryan Adams.
SF: Yeah we got open for them in July of last year. It was actually a blast playing the arena. It was more fun actually walking around backstage at the arena without getting kicked out of the arena. [Laughs] That was the best part.
EU: If you could open for anybody, who would it be?
SF: I think it would be a toss up between Aerosmith and Tom Petty to be honest with you.
EU: You’ll be the only local artist performing at the Ancient City Crawfish Boil next month.
SF: Yes, I have no idea how we got that. We are so lucky to get that but, yes, we are the only local band to be playing that.
EU: Who are you most looking forward to seeing at that show?
SF: You know, it sounds weird, but I’m most excited to see Snoop Dogg than anybody else. I mean, just to see that Snoop Dogg is even coming to Jacksonville is a pretty awesome thing.
EU: Between work and traveling and live performances and day-to-day life have you had time to write anything new?
SF: You know, actually we went to Atlanta a few weekends ago and met with this producer, the same producer who did the first Shinedown record. He’s also a songwriter, and in addition to recording a song that was written six months ago or whatever, we actually came together and wrote a brand new song. It’s in the planning stages but we’re hoping to release it really, really soon.
EU: That’s great! So can we expect a new CD anytime soon?
SF: You know what, we’re actually hoping to get a full-length recorded and released in the next year. We’re really trying to expand our fan base in the southeast and trying to tour as much as possible before we go and release a full-length, but we’re definitely in the planning stages.
EU: The last year has obviously been incredibly eventful for you. Where do you hope to be in your career this time next year?
SF: If we’re not on a major label by then, it wouldn’t kill me, to be honest. I would much rather be an independent artist. I mean, I would love to be on a label, don’t get me wrong, but I’d much rather be able to be self-sufficient before we get on a label. I would love to be able tour, maybe expand a little bit past the southeast, but I would just love to be able to just play every night in front of a packed house… Just do what I love.
Interview with Shawn Fisher
by Kellie Abrahamson